WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CALIFORNIA, May 26 — Ready to touch the ceiling of the vault’s High School Record ever since she cleared 14-6 early in ’20, and positively rarin’ to fly right through it since putting up the highest-ever outdoor mark this April, Paige Sommers (Westlake, Westlake Village, California) at last topped her mark, 14-9, on her home track at the Marmonte League Championships.
Her first-attempt clearance is the highest outdoor vault ever and equaled the Absolute HSR Chloe Cunliffe (West, Seattle) set indoors in March of ’19. (see chart)
Sommers, just 6 days after her 18th birthday, shot her hips several inches over the bar, brushing it with her chest on the descent, and rose from the mat to an exuberant hug from her father/coach John.
“I’m very relieved just because it finally counts. So I’m excited for that and I’m just excited I got to jump it again and am getting more consistent with that,” said the Duke-bound senior, who attended her high school prom just a few days before the record and will graduate on June 09. (Continued below)
Sommers entered the competition at 12-0 after her nearest competitor went over her final bar and mowed through a series of 6 vaults before the record height with just a single miss at 14-0.
“I was in warmups and my legs felt very fresh, which they haven’t been lately,” she said, “so I was really excited for that. I was getting my step further out on my jumps and so I only did a couple warmup jumps since my step was perfectly on.
“And then once I got into the meet, it was just kind of making sure I had the right poles and the right step. And it just kind of was clicking that day with everything. I just kept going up poles and keeping my step at the good spot. And I think that just really helped me jump at the end on the poles and, yeah, I don’t know. I was just clicking that day. My legs were fresh and the crowd was good. I just liked the energy of it.”
After watching video of the record leap,” Sommers analyzed, “I was just kind of surprised to see just how much my step affected my vault, just ’cause I’m usually under all my steps so the pole doesn’t roll through as well. And so when I was watching, I just realized that my step was on and that just helps everything. And even things that I’ve been trying to fix in practice for a while that day just clicked and I started doing everything right.”
Those training fixes — “getting my hips up and turning were my biggest things” — appear from all the video evidence to have taken hold rather nicely.
John Sommers’ assessment: “I was really impressed with the jump. She had hip height on the bar. The standards were a little bit further up [nearer to the box]. I think she could have made a couple inches even higher than that. So I’m really excited for the future.
“It was a fantastic vault. I’ve watched it obviously many, many times since then. And she did a lot of things correct. We finally got her step out. She tends to take off under — meaning she’ll take off at 10 feet or 10-3. And on that jump she took off at 11, which is perfect. That made it so she was able to just have her form dialed in and did everything really, really well.
“If you watch the vault, at the peak of the vault she has a good 3 inches, at least, hip height on the bar, but her hip height’s a little in front of the bar. So if the standards were up, she’d even have a better opportunity of making a higher bar on that particular jump. So it’s exciting to know that she has the potential to jump even higher.”
To close out her afternoon, Sommers took 3 attempts at 14-10. While she didn’t get over, she said that wasn’t attributable to the rush of record emotion moments before.
“I was pretty focused. I don’t think that affected me,” she said, “but I’d been jumping by myself the entire meet and I was on the clock. So just doing that, like doing jumps back to back to back and kind of not really having time to rest because I had to get poles out and all that stuff, I think that was the thing that mainly affected me.”
From the coach’s perspective, John Sommers — in his day an all-America at UCLA — says, “Every warmup jump was great. She just did a couple of them. We didn’t wear her out. And then she waited a long time until she came in. I mean, the meet was completely over when she took her opening height. She came down and every single bar she made on first attempt by a lot except for 14. So the only bar she missed the whole day was her first attempt at 14, she even made 14-4 and 14-9 on the first attempt. So she was just clicking. It was just one of those things.
“That’s how pole vault is. That’s why you need to try to get in as many meets as you can. Because it’s a sport where there’s so many variables involved that you’re waiting for that one day where it clicks. And I would say this day, Paige was just feeling it. We had a great crowd, a home crowd there, um, great weather, a decent little tailwind. I mean, it was just a perfect day and it just felt right.”
Ahead of Sommers a busy summer awaits. “I’m always looking to PR,” she says, “so I really want to get to the 15-foot mark, and 15-1 is the Olympic Trials qualifying height. So that’s what I have my eyes on for the next couple of meets, for sure.”
“I have meets basically every weekend in June and then a couple in July. So I’m hoping to qualify for Pan-Ams. [The Junior version in Cali, Colombia, currently postponed by the pandemic to a tentative November 25 start date when Sommers will be settled in as a collegiate frosh.] And I have the NSAF Outdoor Nationals in Oregon.”
Ample opportunity for more days where everything clicks and just feels right.